6 October 2016: Five times Olympic rowing champion Steve Redgrave was once asked how he would react if a competitor was a length up on him at the half way stage in a heat.
Redgrave, notorious for rowing every single round of a tournament as if it was the final, even when he only needed to come third to qualify, was puzzled. “It just wouldn’t happen,” he repeated several times.
Eventually he managed to imagine the scenario. “I’d think that the other guy was trying to take my gold medal away from me,” he replied.
For Jeremy Moore, co-founder of the sales performance consultancy RiddleBox, Redgrave’s automatic, deep-seated belief that the victor’s medal was his, holds the key to winning in customer interactions.
The positivity and self-belief of sales professionals as they go into their meetings with potential customers will help to sway the mindset of the customer and affect the outcome, says Moore.
An adept sales person will also have the emotional intelligence to read the mood and personality type of the person they are meeting, and frame the conversation in a way that will encourage them to respond positively.
“I really believe the competitive battlefield for products and services is an emotional one,” Moore told an Association of Professional Sales seminar on Creating Customer Culture.
“It is only people who get their head around that who are going to win.
“If you want a customer culture you have to base it around how your customers feel, not how they think.”
Moore, who is a performance coach to elite athletes in addition to his work with RiddleBox, said that the sales environment had evolved. Change was so relentless, information so ubiquitous, choice so confusingly wide and products so similar that customers made buying decisions with their emotions rather than with logic.
So how do you influence a client’s emotions? Moore told the APS seminar that in any encounter between two people there was an emotional battle. The strongest emotion present would dominate.
He hooked up one of the seminar attendees, Guy Fraser, to a heart rate variability monitor and demonstrated that emotions are physiological states. A state of threat and fearful anticipation made Fraser’s heart rate jerkier and more erratic; a calm state made it smoother and steadier.
Powerful physiological states tended to influence others, Moore said, in a process called entrainment that was first observed by the thinker Christian Huygens in the 17th Century.
Sales professionals themselves could work on their own mental states through simple exercises, such as focusing on positive emotions every day.
“If you take charge of yourself and your emotions it will pay off, because your customer will perceive it,” said Moore.
“It is all about us becoming the best version of ourselves and communicating it to customers.”
But the quest to create a sales team inspired with Redgrave-style confidence and positivity began with leadership. Success was more likely if the boss led by example, modelling the behaviour and mindset they wanted from their team.
Positive sales leaders could inculcate greater dynamism, enthusiasm, calm and openness in the way the sales team behaved with customers, promoting a positive customer culture.
But woe betide a leader who was negative and focused on problems. “Even before the last Rugby World Cup started the England coaching team was putting it about that they were in a difficult group,” said Moore. “I was furious! I knew they were going to lose.”
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